Monday, June 29, 2015

A Unique Hat

Monday 29th June

It the UK we take for granted reliable supplies of water and electricity. Here we are a long way from the town centre and at the end of a long road – this is apparently why the water can be a bit erratic. There seems to be no pattern, but if often fails to reach our taps. There is an outside tap in the grounds and often a tin bath sits underneath it – usually with the tap open. This ensures that as soon as water arrives the family living in the small house within the wall get their supply. Unfortunately pressure is rarely sufficient to reach our taps inside and service the outside tap at the same time. If we are lucky when the bath is full water comes out of some or all of our taps - depending on the pressure. Maximum pressure starts to fill the cistern in the toilet!

Of course when our turn comes we will refill the drums and containers in the house to cope with the next gap in supply. So far we have had water everyday that I have been here, equally we have been without water for at least one period every day!!

Electricity has been more reliable! Today it has been off for a few hours – fortunately my laptop is doing well – providing 2-3 hours of battery power. Yesterday power was off from morning till about 17 hrs. However on the whole it has been pretty good. Only once have we had to create a cold meal in the evening and read by candlelight! As if listening to my comments, power has just been restored and the kettle has burst into life – I could just do with a cup of tea!

Yesterday I decided to take the opportunity, while Deana and Martin were away to clean the floors. After sweeping I got down on my hands and knees and got floor washing. I had managed to get a bowlful of water before the supply stopped which was just sufficient to clean the house! I was quite proud of my achievement as I marched swiftly to church. (Though as you will hear later pride always proceeds a fall!!)

Fr. Clement made up for the short service last week. He gave a rousing sermon – receiving, no doubt well deserved, applause at the end. (My chitonga still doesn't enable me to make out anything). At about 12.20 the new church committee members and the related Small Christian Community committees were brought to the front of the church. It was heartening to see so many actively involved in the organisation – probably between 60 and 100 people in total. After notices I left for home at about 12.45.

I am realising how far I am from everywhere! A very brisk walk gets be from the church to home in 35 minutes. However on the way back I met Ian. Ian used to work in the stores and we spent many hours together while I was developing the stock control database. There have been many changes since and he is now working in the Male Ward, looking after their information. He told me that he was looking forward to meeting me again because he wanted to develop a better way of analysing and presenting the statistics – particularly in relation to cause of death. I remember in 2005/6 when I was working with Bentoe we were trying to lay cable to create a local network. We hoped to have links to the wards so the hospital could benefit from an integrated patient records system that I was also developing. Unfortunately Bentoe died in a tragic road accident in 2006 along with Rose – another hospital manager. The computer systems never developed properly after Bentoe's death.

I was now running very late. I had a couple of sandwiches before rushing to St. Veronica's section meeting. The numbers started very small – the committee from St. Veronica's were meeting at Our Lady of the Wayside so they were unable to join us. Numbers grew towards the end of the meeting.

Martin and Deana returned at about 18 hrs. Later in the evening I found a distressed Deana who found that water had somehow found it's way into her room. She imagined some sort of hidden spring – or perhaps a less savoury source and was a little relieved when I assured her that I must be the culprit!! It seems that the corridor has a slope which in all directions leads to Deana's room. By gaily sloshing water around I had inadvertently sent a river under her door where it headed for her mattress!!

This morning, after putting together a few notes, I headed back to Zamtel to pick up my replacement SIM card - which of course would be there!! At the main road I met Mr. Phiri – the barber and proprietor of Sweet Sixteen. In 2004 I remember he cut my hair whilst flirting with Emily a physiotherapist, who was volunteering here at the time. He was standing by his car-washing business and is well on the way to constructing a block of three shops which he intends to rent out. He has a plan to build a lodge where the car-wash currently sits and told me he also needs to have a college and sports facility!! Quite an empire for a barber who speaks with a kind of American/Jamaican drawl.

The SIM card is on its way!! There are at least a thousand cards with the courier heading for Monze – they will be there in the afternoon!! The guy at the office told me he wants to study accountancy in the UK and asked about getting a visa. I told him that it was not easy!! I also pointed out that it wasn't cheap to study in the UK - as well as the fees accommodation is very expensive. He hopes to fund himself. I agreed to return to the Zamtel office when it fitted with my programme.

I headed for the hospital - a visit was well overdue. I greeted a few familiar faces and was greeted my people who obviously remembered me better than I did them! I called on Sr Juunza but she had a visitor and it was clear that I should wait. I recognised a very familiar voice from the office – it was Jennipher, if my ears didn't deceive me. I popped over to the Director's secretary and said hallo. The Director was in the operating theatre. I was pleased to know that he was still doing some work for which he was trained. It has always seemed sad that much needed professional doctors are given jobs as managers and administrators, for which they have had no training and often are not suited. Not that it is only in Zambia that this is an issue. Increasingly in the UK, doctors and nurses are expected to deal with more financial, purchasing and administrative tasks, as if these were areas of their expertise.

When I returned to Sr. Juunza she was free and we talked a bit about possible re-introduction of the stock control system. Although I am sure it could help the hospital, I am not keen to spend a lot of time unless I am sure that it would be properly used and maintained and processes are put in place to protect the data. I will talk to Sr Juunza again.

On my return back home I was joined by a lady saying something about a Zambian hat!! Yes she had been true to her word and had made a cap with the flag of Zambia and the words “Republic of Zambia” embroidered on it. She said she had seen me earlier in the week but didn't catch me. I am know the proud owner of a unique Zambian cap.

I picked up a large avocado and made a lot of guacamole. Raymond came later in the afternoon and we put the world to right – or at least. recognised so much that was wrong!

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